What is Rasam?

What is Rasam?

Rasam is a tangy and spicy soup that is an essential part of South Indian cuisine. It is typically made with tamarind juice, tomatoes, garlic, and various spices - such as cumin, coriander, turmeric and black pepper - all of which are included in our spice blend called Tangy Rasam PODI. Rasam can be enjoyed as a standalone soup or paired with steamed rice.

History of Rasam:

The history of rasam dates back to ancient India, where it was believed to have medicinal properties due to its use of herbs and spices. The word "rasam" is derived from the Sanskrit word "rasa," which means taste or flavor. 

Rasam is derived from a Tamil word 'irasam' and the Sanskrit word 'rasa', both words meaning essence or extract. It is believed to have originated in the 16th century in Madurai by Sourashtras, an immigrant community. They prefer calling it 'Pulichaar' which means tart or tamarind.

Rasam is an excellent digestive:

Rasam is known for its various functional benefits. The tamarind and spices in rasam act as a natural digestive aid, while the spices help boost immunity and fight off colds and flu. The garlic in rasam are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Compares to other Sour Soups around the world:

Sour soups exist in many cultures around the world. For instance, in Thailand, Tom Yum soup is a sour and spicy soup made with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and chilies. In Russia, Schi is a sour soup made with cabbage, beets, and meat. Similarly, the Korean Kimchi soup is a sour soup made with fermented cabbage and spices.

Sour soups are typically consumed as a starter or a main dish. In many cultures, sour soups are believed to aid digestion and boost immunity, just like rasam.

Science Behind Deliciousness:

The deliciousness of rasam can be attributed to the combination of flavors and spices used in its preparation. The sourness of the tamarind and the spiciness of the chili are balanced by the sweetness of the tomato and the earthiness of the cumin and coriander. Additionally, the aroma of the spices used in rasam adds to its overall flavor and appeal. Rasam has even been studied by scientists! here's a scientific article on rasam.

Pairings for the creative gourmand - here are five ideas:

  1. Serve tomato rasam with steamed rice, plain overcooked lentils and a side of crispy papadums for a classic South Indian meal.
  2. Pair tomato rasam with a grilled cheese sandwich for a comforting lunchtime treat.
  3. Use tomato rasam as the broth for ramen, and top it with boiled eggs
  4. Use tomato rasam as a base for a seafood stew, and add in shrimp, clams, and mussels for a delicious and satisfying meal.
  5. Use rasam as a braising broth for meats - like chicken!

Overall, there are endless possibilities when it comes to pairing rasam with different dishes and ingredients, and it's worth exploring to discover new flavor combinations.

Dishes inspired by rasam: 

Chefs and home cooks have experimented with different variations and adaptations of the soup. For example, in some households, rasam is made with lentils or vegetables like okra. There are also variations with various ingredients, such as the pepper rasam, the lemon rasam, and tomato rasam. On Instagram you can find many variations under the hashtag #rasamseries!



  • Jaffrey, M. (2012). Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking. Chronicle Books.
  • Sreenivasan, M. (2018). Rasam: the Indian Soup. Economic and Political Weekly, 53(39), 44-47.
  • https://www.thebetterindia.com/244009/viral-trending-america-rasam-tamil-nadu-chef-health-benefits-history-india-gop94/

Other recipes from the web:



commissioned illustration by Anjitha KV - she notes "Along Northern Malabar region of Kerala, there's a way of serving rasam along with chicken biriyani like a soup. We just drink it up as a soup after or before a heavy chicken biriyani."